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This is a continuation of a question I asked last week found here:

Bankrolled my way to lead developer, does this count as experience?

Two years ago, me and a couple online friends decided to write our own custom flavor of Linux based off of Debian. I personally bankrolled the project, and learned a lot from it, mostly website design, linux proficiency, and project leadership. I ran the website, owned the server space, and was the admin of the IRC and Reddit.

However, about two months into this project, we received a "Cease and Desist" from another project that had trademarked the name we were using. Most of the lower contributors ended up bailing, and I eventually decided to remove all traces from the web to avoid any legal issues. At this time I was still in highschool, and didn't have the know power or money to see it through. We ended up releasing 1 .iso before we went under. I learned a lot from that project, and now that I'm working in the Computer Engineering field, I want to make it a proper entry in my resume.

When I was getting interviewed for my current internship, one of the interviewers expressed a lot of interest in the project, but was disappointed when I told him that I took everything down. How can I represent on my resume that I HAD to take it down due to legal issues? I obviously have the knowledge, and the memory of the project, but I just don't have any proof that I'm legally allowed to show.

Edit, added the link to past question

  • Is this about putting it on your resume, or explaining it in an interview? Obviously the interviewer didn't try to find it on the web or he would have known it wasn't available. – stannius Jul 27 '15 at 19:36
  • Mentioning that you HAD to comply with the cease-and-desist letter is something that you do at the interview. If anyone wants to see your work product, put that person under an NDA. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 27 '15 at 19:47
  • He actually did try and find it, but like expected, he could not find any trace, and I told him that I took it down. I did not explain to him it was due to legal issues, and he seemed to accept the answer slightly begrudgingly. – Dupontrocks11 Jul 27 '15 at 19:47
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    I'm trying to understand why you didn't just change the name. Seems like a very simple thing to do given the amount of other work involved. – NotMe Jul 27 '15 at 21:47
  • We did a lot of graphical design work, so the logo and a lot of the UI was directly tied into the name. It would be like if Apple changed their name, a lot of their current naming and logos wouldn't make sense anymore. – Dupontrocks11 Jul 28 '15 at 13:53
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I'll start with the standard "I'm not a lawyer" phrase, so consult a lawyer about the legal aspects of it. Given my own experience with trademark issues, the cease and desist only applies to active usage of the trademark in question. Since the project was related to programming, you should still be able to post the relevant code, documents, diagrams etc to a private (or possibly even public) repository whereby you can distribute access to it for informational purposes only.

You should be able to remove or at least disclaim any active infringement of the trademark in question as the project is no longer active but shows as a testament to your work and capabilities. I like @BinaryBazooka's suggestion of having a fully functional version on a laptop very much. However, that doesn't preclude you from exposing at least a pertinent subset of the project itself in a manner that allows you to distribute a non-working sample set.

Within the context of a resume it is work you did. Simply provide an alternate name for the project and a detailed narrative of its scope. The fact that it was taken down due to legal recourse will not matter to anyone looking to give it due consideration (and a project such as that is certainly worth considering).

I wouldn't list the cease and desist on the resume, but when asked why it didn't succeed or why it was shuttered certainly you should be honest about it.

  • Would it be acceptable to list it, allow the interviewer to research it on their own, and then explain it when they ask about it at the interview? Last time I did that, the interviewer was slightly disappointed, and I felt like that took away from the entry. – Dupontrocks11 Jul 27 '15 at 19:57
  • @Dupontrocks11: Personally I like to be proactive about it. Rather than let someone go through that effort only to achieve disappointment, I like to list very specifically from where the source can be retrieved. If you put it online in a private repository, say that. If you would like them to request a copy or something similar, say that instead. Something like "Demonstration code available upon request" or something like that. This let's them know it's available while at the same time telling them that it's not online. – Joel Etherton Jul 27 '15 at 20:00
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Get an external hard drive, put the data on it and bring it in. You are fully legally allowed to show work you've done to people, just don't give it to people to download etc... (or whatever the legal issue was).

Even better, bring in a laptop with what you did already on it.

  • That would be nice, but in this case, the interview was over Skype. It's also quite possible that I don't have a working .iso on me. All the work was done on a Thinkpad laptop that I no longer have. – Dupontrocks11 Jul 27 '15 at 19:53
  • You can screen share on skype or google hangouts. You don't have any of the work at all? If you really were a big part of this project you should have something to show, and if not, you should have something to say that shows it. – user37925 Jul 27 '15 at 20:00
  • I'm actually not sure, I could have the work saved on my desktop back home. Back when I was a part of this project, my teenage self was not very proactive about saving my work. Once I took down the server, almost all of the web design was most likely lost. I'll have to see if i can find the github – Dupontrocks11 Jul 27 '15 at 20:06
  • Highly suggest you do - I've been there, lost the code for a Full 3D game I built from the ground up in C++. Still have the executable at least so I can show it off – user37925 Jul 27 '15 at 21:31

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